Donations will help churches provide Thanksgiving dinner for those in need

COLUMBIA — It’s turkey season and Robert Keeder is out hunting — hunting for people who will show their generosity to those in need.

Each year the dedicated Columbian and a corps of interfaith volunteers engage in a labor of love, garnering funds and support to provide a meal for hungry people on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24.

Keeder is the founder of the annual Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by St. Peter and First Baptist churches. For over a decade, volunteers have put on a massive holiday feast at the Columbia Coliseum. It has become a tradition for volunteers to give thanks for their own blessings by helping others.

Originally designed to assist street people on a day when everyone else is feasting with his or her family, the dinner has evolved into its own version of a family get-together. Homeless people, welfare families, the working poor, the elderly, and even a few college kids who can’t get home for the long weekend come to dine with each other. Approximately 1,800 attend the meal each year.

Restaurants and bakeries donate food, chefs and waiters cook and serve, entertainers sing and play music and volunteers color pictures and play games with children. Volunteers also deliver dinners to shut-ins, the elderly in nursing homes and others who can’t get to the coliseum.

The committee initiated the Adopt-A-Turkey Program to allow people to help from their own homes. By sending $10 to St. Peter, donors pay for a 12-lb. turkey that will be cooked by volunteers to serve the hungry.

To make a donation, send a check payable to St. Peter Catholic Church to 1529 Assembly St., Columbia, SC 29201. To provide other assistance call Robert Keeder at (803) 796-9802.